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Yellowknife Education District No. 1 (Yk1) has received close to $2.4 million from the GNWT to help the school district with Covid-related expenses over the school year.

That amount includes about $2.3 million in funding and 114 Chromebook laptops for students, Tram Do, director of corporate services, told Yk1’s board of trustees on Tuesday evening.

Around $308,000 would be used for things like personal protective equipment, sanitation items and any other materials.

Yellowknife Education District No. 1 received close to $2.4 million from the GNWT to help it with Covid-related expenses.
NNSL file photo

“In total, it’s about $2.4 million that we’ll be receiving in funding for Covid-related expenses, which encompasses custodial staff, teachers, salaries for casuals, materials and supplies and the actual Chromebooks. We are very happy with the funding. It should help with the expenditures,” Do said.

Yk1’s share comes out of a $12.4-million pot from the GNWT that will be distributed to schools across the territory, as announced on Oct. 1.

The computer hardware is among 1,641 Chromebooks and turbo sticks the GNWT has given to assist students doing blended or distance learning, with 750 of the devices set in reserve in case community spread of Covid-19 leads to the closure of schools, according to a GNWT document.

But superintendent Ed Lippert said that while the funding is appreciated, there currently aren’t enough classrooms for new teachers to work in.

“Before we’re able to hire them, we have to have a space for them,” he said. “(Sir John Franklin) is at capacity, given the physical distancing measures we’ve already put in place. If we hire five or six additional teachers… we might potentially have to rent a place to house them.

Sir John has divided its students into separate times that they can be on campus. Students in grades 10 to 12 attend in-person classes during either the morning or the afternoon, with the other half of the day’s school work done off-campus.

Lippert said the intent of the funding from the GNWT was to allow all students to be on campus for the entire day, but because there isn’t enough space at the high school, the district is considering other possibilities, such as alternative teaching sessions.

“The second thing is, it will take quite a bit of time to recruit and hire additional teachers. There’s not a lot of teachers available in town, in particular teachers who are necessarily qualified. But we’re looking forward to trying to hire more teachers.”

Substitute teachers

More than 70 substitute teachers are on an availability list for Yk1 and the district has recruited a higher number than usual in case more are needed.

Yk1, Yellowknife Catholic Schools (YCS) and the Commission scolaire francophone des Territoires du Nord-Ouest have accelerated their substitute teacher recruitment due to the pandemic. Yk1 continues to seek more substitutes.

“We don’t know what the future holds. We might suddenly need many people. That’s why we’re bolstering our list, in case something catastrophic happens. We’re getting into flu season so we typically have a number of people who are ill,” Lippert said.

The more than 70 teachers on the list have gone through the application process, had their references checked and received their background checks by the RCMP, said Lippert.

Not all the teachers would necessarily be available at a given time, due to some being on other school districts’ lists, and some having other part-time jobs.

Bussing

YK1 has partnered with YCS to bring in four new buses through First Transit. The joint measure is a response to the 25-passenger cap on city buses because of Covid regulations, and because as the weather gets colder more students tend to ride the bus, said Do.
Two buses will be for Sir John students and two will “shadow city buses to accommodate people who can’t find spots on those buses.”
Based on a transit survey conducted by Yk1, there are 60 students on a waiting list for added bussing.
“The challenge now is the bussing company is having problems finding drivers. We put ads on our website (and) Twitter for anyone who might be interested in a part-time job driving a bus,” Do said.
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Blair McBride

Blair McBride covers the Legislative Assembly, business and education. Before coming to Yellowknife he worked as a journalist in British Columbia, Thailand and Ontario. He studied journalism at Western...

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